There was a time when addresses where not placed on listings of homes for sale or on rentals when advertised on various websites. Those days are long gone with a number of big name real estate search engines or real estate websites featuring property addresses on both homes for sale and rental listings.
Just recently my listing was “spoofed” by someone on manipulting Craigslist. I wrote about a popular blog post on examples of real estate scamon Craigslist in the past, but what I experienced today is a first for me.
I am a listing agent for XYZ property in Newark, NJ. Just recently, I received several phone calls regarding interested renters renting a unit I have listed for sale by broker.
Spoofing is the process of altering a business logo or email content to appear like a true business of in an effort to collect sensitive information from people, encourage people to visit a website, or download a file that could contain a virus.
In my case, I found a Craigslist’s poster using my listing pictures and my property description to entice potential renters to give their home address. The ad posted up a rental at an extremely low price to generate a lot of interests. Once potential and eager renters read the ad, some renters contated the poster. They were told that they would have to give their home address to be able to receive a copy of the lease and keys to preview the unit since the “landlord” (evil Criagslist’s user) is out of country and his real estate agent died (I assure you, I am alive and well as I type this).
Fortunately for some potential renters and since the ad had the address on it, I’ve been able to prevent renters from dealing with this scam artist. I have a for sale sign at the property and naturally when the renters arrive at the house, they immeidately called me to find out if the house was for rent or for sale.
This leads me to the next section of my post.
Top 5 ways to know if the craigslist ad is legitmate. Knowing these ways can protect you from this real estate scam.
1. If the ad is too good to be true, it probably is. The craigslist scam artist offered the home I had for sale, which is a 2 bedroom duplex, for $750/mon for rent, which is the price of a one bedroom rental, not two. If the price is too good to be true, take precaution when responding to the ad.
2. Look for legitimate and consistent contact information in the ad.If the craigslist poster had the craigslist generated email account. If that is the case, other contact info like a phone number and a contact name for the individual renting the home.
3. Ask questions in your initial email about the poster’s relationship with the property and about the property itself. (Yes, I know the following sample questions might make you look pushy, but simply explain that you are a serious renter).
Here are some sample questions:
- Are you the homeowner or property manager for the apartment or home for rent?
- Do you live at the property or offsite?
- When will the unit be available for showing and when are you looking to have the place rented? (Never go alone to a rental listing for a showing. Keep your cell phone on your person when visiting a rental alone or accompanied by another person. If you have to preview a home alone, call a friend to alert them to what you are doing. You can always ask a co-worker to accompany you).
- Before you release your personal information to anyone, make sure you are dealing with the homeowner or property manager before you detailed contact information.
- How long have you owned the property or when did you buy the home? (Home purchases dates and sales prices are generally listed as a public record. Visit the county court house or hall of records for the township if you have the time). If you live in NJ, you can check NJ tax records online.
- Do you have any other pictures of the apartment or home?
4. Use good judgement. When someone or something feels uncomfortable or unbelievable, walk away. Yes, I know you would love to have that gorgeous apartment for $750, but this goes back to my number 1, see above.
5. If you’re searching for rentals or homes for sale online, you will more that likely want to do a drive by before contacting the poster, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. If the property has an address in the online ad, drive by the location and see if there is a for rent sign that is consistent with the contact information that the ad provides.
Other ways to spot a fake rental ad.
- They person posting the ad lives in Nigeria or the UK (Someone overseas generally hires a property manager or real estate agent to handle something like this).
- The poster claims to be a missionary, model, reverend, businessman, etc. (Who cares what they do? They give you this information to create a sense of trust. In reality, they are looking to scam you out of your money your collect your sensitive contact information).
- The poster’s ad displays spelling and grammar error (Many of the ads are cut, copied and pasted on various rental websites. Therefore, some or all of the property description might be incoherent).
- They psoter claims to have fallen upon hard times and need someone to trust
- The email response to your email inquiry starts off stupidly with “Dear Sir / Madam”
- Their emails are unusually polite, but are extremely incoherent and weird
- The poster brings up their faith: Mentioning ‘God’, ‘God fearing’, ‘God bless you’, etc.
- They ask your for any of these items: Address, Phone, Bank Info, SSN
- They ask you to wire them money, for any reason imaginable
- They create a false sense of urgency: “I NEED TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU ASAP!”
- The property price seems like a steal and it really is since the ad is meant to steal your information.
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